Exposure to trauma, neglect, or abuse in early childhood can hijack healthy development. Children with a background of adoption, foster care, and early medical interventions often need extra support moving through stuck spots in social, emotional, and cognitive development. Furthermore, what might seem insignificant to adults can still be very traumatic to a child.
Examples of potentially traumatic events for a child:
- Parents fighting
- News or media exposure to frightening world events
- Extreme weather conditions
- How might this have occurred for your child?
PTSD Symptoms in Children
- Increased separation anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble with daytime or bed wetting even if previously toilet trained
- Trauma related play, drawings, or stories.
- Increased irritability or aggressive behaviors
- Concentration and Attention Problems
If your child has any of these symptoms you can start by opening up the communication channels to better understand the experiences that may be impacting them emotionally. Whereas older children can often talk about their experiences, younger children may need to communicate through play and art. Unwinding the effects of trauma may require professional guidance. There is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. It is a vast relief to get help for your child if you cannot help him or her overcome their symptoms on your own.
EMDR Therapy Can Help
EMDR for childhood trauma provides a structured approach to helping children move past traumatic events:
- We develop the resources necessary to build the capacity to work with difficult material in a safe and healing manner.
- We use creative therapies such as play, art, sandtray, and imagination to help kids find creative solutions and feel powerful again.
- We determine what are the triggers for the child’s distress (e.g. transitions, mealtimes, jealousy)
- We turn towards the traumatic event. If a child remembers the event they can tell the story or draw their experience. If a child was too young a parent or caregiver helps to tell the story
- When big feelings happen we help children learn that they can “have the feelings and still be okay, safe, and loved”
- We integrate a new sense of strength and courage into the present and prepare for the future.
I have had the opportunity to help many children process the effects of trauma exposure through EMDR and Play Therapy. Children feel more confident, safe, free of anxiety, and competent to manage their world. The right combination of EMDR and Play therapy can bring about a transformation in your child that can get them back on the right track in their lives.